Oy! What a day! It exhausts me just thinking about it. I don’t even know where to begin, but begin we must.
The day started out gray and blustery. Exceedingly blustery. Wind is my least favorite element, so this should have been a portent of what lay ahead. Also, the breakfast bar manager at the La Quinta threw away my bagel from the toaster. And it was the last one. Fortunately, I knew just the tonic for such an inauspicious start. . .
Luckenbach Texas is basically a post office/general store/saloon and dance hall, and was all but a ghost town until shortly before that song was recorded. Nowadays it’s little more than a tourist attraction for country music aficionados and bikers. On a blustery gray Thursday in March it’s all but deserted save for a handful of Harley riders, Annie, and me.
The town still has live music pretty much every night in its dance hall, and a closer examination of the evening’s star attraction caught me more than a little by surprise!
I was fortunate enough to catch ShAnnie doing sound check (a pure acapella act apparently), and was impressed to see they already have her stage name immortalized on the wall of fame.
Also! Confidential to my cat ladies:
The P.O./General Store even has a resident shop kitty!
After splitting a pulled pork sammich and a cherry limeade (delish!) we were on the road again to see if we could espy some of the legendary Texas bluebonnets I’d heard so much tell of. Our own little blossom, Marigold, took us down to a place called Willow City in search of the elusive native wildflowers. Alas, we only found a few sparse patches, like much else on this trip it seems as though we’re just a few weeks too early. The views we saw were breathtaking though, but alas, this particular loop road does not allow stopping or parking ANYWHERE, and as awesome as my iPhone 6 has been at capturing amazing photos so far, it just can’t do the distance shots justice.
Pump up the wow factor on these pics by at least eleven.
After our mini wildflower jaunt, it was time for the MAIN EVENT! Climbing Enchanted Rock! You remember how I mentioned that the Texas State Capitol Building is made entirely from native red granite. Well this is a big old dome of it rising up out of the earth. You’ll be shocked and amazed to learn it is the largest pink granite monadnock in the entire United States!! (Google it.) I entered the Visitor Center to check in, and was surprised to see the sizable spinning postcard rack had only 4 or 5 cards of random yellow flowers left. I pointed this out to the ranger dude and suggested he might want to reorder. I was told they will “no longer be carrying” postcards, as they started with 10,000 and it took them 10 years to sell them all. WTH?! I know I’m a throwback with my snail mail ways, but NO postcards at a tourist site? Maybe don’t have a whole rack of stupid ones, but a small display of an aerial shot of the rock wouldn’t go amiss surely? The things sell for 50 cents-what do they cost the park? A dime each? The hits kept coming when I was told I could NOT pay for a tent camping site and sleep in my van. When I enquired as to why, I was told “because we don’t allow it.” I MAY have gotten a bit snarky at this non-answer better suited for a four year old wanting chocolate pie for dinner, and this brought TWO supervisors out of the woodwork. Apparently, the site is super popular with visitors, and they have very limited parking. So some days this can be a problem and they have to cut off admission to the park until spaces open up. Some enterprising souls apparently started sleeping in their cars in order to gain prime AM access, so the “must sleep in a tent or hammock” rule is now strictly enforced. I’m not sure I fully understood the problem or the solution, but unless I could pull a tent out of my tuckus, I wasn’t going to be sleeping at Enchanted Rock that night. I was handed a flyer for a nearby campground (more on this anon) and sent off to hike.
Undeterred by the lack of Southern hospitality, and actually grateful not to have been shot (it IS Texas after all), Annie and I put our climbing paws/boots on and set off up the dome! (Again, my pics won’t do this justice, but I couldn’t buy a damn postcard to insert!)
The initial ascent was more of a rock scramble, and Annie enjoyed poking her nose in lots of interesting places.
Before long, we reached the midway point from which it’s pretty much a straight half mile ascent up a sheer rock face. And did I mention it was super windy? It was super windy.
So here’s the thing about me and hiking. I love it. But I suck at it. Always have. Ever since I was a kid I’ve had an issue with stamina. I can go for miles on a flat surface, but make it an incline, and my lungs give out way before my legs do. The day twice a year when we had to run the 600 yard dash for the fitness testing in school? My biggest nightmare days ever. I ALWAYS came in second to last. And the last place finisher was literally twice my weight. Until my twenties I was stick skinny, and even now I only have a little extra padding, so I LOOK like I should be able to keep up, and most folks don’t understand when I can’t. Heck I don’t really understand it. So I HATE hiking with other people. I can never go as far or as fast, and I feel like a total loser when I have to stop all the time. I won’t go hiking on dates even though I love being outdoors and in nature. But Annie makes the perfect hiking partner. Although she has proven time and again she can easily go further and faster, whenever I have to stop and rest she runs right over and nuzzles her head in my cheek. And gives me the biggest smile.
There were a few times I let anxiety get the better of me. Fearing I couldn’t make it, even though school kids were whizzing past me, worrying about tripping or stumbling and falling down the steep surface. But with Annie’s encouragement we ascended to the top! It’s a lame accomplishment. It’s no Everest by any means, and most folks didn’t even bat an eye flying up the side. But I did it! And yes, Annie “planted her flag” at the top.
The wind was gusting so hard it almost blew us off the rock, so we made a much hastier descent. Feeling energized and accomplished, and with the sun finally showing his face, we decided to explore the loop trail around the base of the rock. Gorgeous scenery and greenery. Annie even VOLUNTARILY waded into a stream! #badass
Park fully explored, it seemed time to think about making camp for the night, So remember that handy flyer Ranger Dude gave me? Well, it directed me to a ranch with camping about 20 minutes away from the rock in the direction I wanted to travel anyway. The flier said there was no need for reservations as they always have plenty of room. I left the park well before sunset to have plenty of time to set up camp and relax. When I finally found the ranch (Yes, MapQuest is still screwing with me) there was no one around. And no information as to how to check in otherwise. Just a little BARKBARK Chihuahua named Toby (as I learned from their Facebook page). I called the phone number and no answer. After doing some additional research, it seemed my next best option was to go to a KOA approximately a 30 mile drive back the direction I had just come. Frustrating. When I arrived at the KOA, they told me they had no tent sites left, or anything but cabins, which they don’t allow pets in. They then directed me to Lady Bird Johnson Park another 10 miles back in the direction I just came. When I got to that park, the office was open but the Ranger was out, so I had to wait 10 minutes for her to return only to tell me they also do not allow you to sleep in your vehicle, unless you have an RV, and all their RV spaces were full. Apparently the park is owned by the city, and this is a city rule. WTF? As it was now 9 PM, and fully dark, and I seemed to be out of any other options and was exhausted, I saw no choice but to pony up for another unexpected stay in a La Quinta. Well, at least one of us is happy . . .